The mother of all royal privacy rows is brewing after the Italian magazine Chi today defiantly published long-lens photographs of a pregnant Kate Middleton strolling on the beach in Mustique in a blue bikini, under the headline, "La Pancia Cresce" - "Your Belly Grows".
The magazine - which is owned by the family of Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian premier who was criticized when he informally greeted the Queen on a previous occasion - published the notorious photographs of Kate topless last year and also published pictures of Princess Diana's final moments after the Paris car crash that took her life. The latest pictures include a double page spread showing William - wearing blue stripey board shorts - strolling on the beach with bikini-clad Kate's arm around his shoulders.
The magazine - which is thought to have paid in the region of €250,000 for the set of pictures - appears utterly unconcerned by the ire of the young royals meted out to the French magazine Closer, which was taken to court after they published the topless photos of Kate
Reports first started to filter out at the weekend that a photographer had managed the impossible, somehow breaching Mustique's legendary security, to snap pictures of Kate and her sister Pippa strolling on Mustique's palm-fringed shores in bikinis when the Sunday People, in an article headlined "Fresh agony over bikini snaps", reported that the pictures had been taken
The paper said it had "chosen not to view the pictures and, like the rest of the British media, will not publish them".
In the post-Leveson environment there seems zero possibility the snaps will be printed in the UK.
A St James's Palace spokesman told the Royalist: "We are disappointed that photographs of the Duke and Duchess on a private holiday look likely to be published overseas. This is a clear breach of the couple's right to privacy."
The photographs appear to have been taken from a boat offshore.
The fact that a photographer has been able to get close enough to take these new pictures will be a huge blow for privately owned Mustique, which has thrived on its reputation as a papparazzi-free enclave.
Mustique is as famous for its white-sand beaches as it is for the omertà that ensures that very little celebrity tittle-tattle ever makes it off the island. The Mustique Company boasts that it is “dedicated to protecting the island’s privacy.”
As in previous years, the island will have been more or less locked down for the royal visit, and other guests at the Caribbean hotspot will have faced a range of (futile) strictures to protect the Middletons’ privacy, including a ban on using the souped-up golf buggies (or “mules”) that are the main form of transport on the island.
William and Kate will be devastated by the publication of the images, having hoped that the French legal action would scare off such behaviour.